Bestiality penalties in New South Wales

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In NSW, bestiality is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
Australia Criminal Law
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A 38-year-old Moorland man – who police allege is one of the state's worst bestiality offender – has been charged after police executed a search warrant on his residence.

Colin Baker was arrested on his property, which is about 30km north of Taree, and taken to Taree Police Station, following extensive investigations into an online profile of a user under the pseudonym 'Beast Boy'.

Officers in an investigation headed by the Sex Crimes Squad's Child Exploitation Internet Unit named 'Strike Force Trawler' were led to the online profile following inquiries into the online sharing and promotion of child abuse material in February 2024.

The profile had a large online presence and allegedly utilised encrypted messaging apps to share bestiality material which featured the sexual abuse of various animals.

This included dogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and a dead kangaroo.

Baker has been charged with eight counts of bestiality, six counts of producing bestiality material, four counts of disseminating bestiality material, as well as possessing child abuse material, and using a carriage service to access and solicit child abuse material.

During the search of the residence, police seized electronics and hard drives which will be subject to further forensic examination, which officers believe may lead to more charges.

A dog which was identified as one of the animals allegedly sexually abused was seized by the RSPCA NSW. Baker's boyfriend, Mick Mepham has since spoken to the media stating he is "shocked and confused" regarding the charges.

The dog seized was Mepham's, whom he called 'Loppy'. He noted how he loved the dog and that she was a rescue.

"The hardest part is she didn't trust anybody when I first got her, and it took six months before she would trust me... And to think.... I just want her home." he explained.

Baker was refused bail by police and appeared at Taree Local Court on Tuesday, 30 April 2024 where he was formally refused bail by the court. His next court appearance is on 8 July 2024.

Bestiality Penalties in New South Wales

In New South Wales, bestiality is criminalised under section 79 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). It carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

The section prescribes that it is an offence to commit an act of bestiality with any animal.

Bestiality is not defined in the legislation, but at common law (i.e., through case law authorities). It has been held to consist of any form of sexual intercourse with an animal (as outlined in R v Brown (1889) 24 QBD 357). No particular mode of penetration is required.

As outlined in the case of Chesworth v R [2023] NSWCCA 115, when an offender is sentenced for offences against animals, it must be taken into account the vulnerability of a domestic animal and their incapacity to consent or refuse to engage in particular conduct.

An attempt to commit bestiality is also criminalised under the Act, instead carrying a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, as per section 80.

In New South Wales, producing, disseminating, or possessing bestiality or animal crush material was criminalised in 2021 after advocates pointed out a gap in the law. The bill was introduced by the Emma Hurst of the Animal Justice Party.

Producing or disseminating bestiality or animal crush material carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, whereas possessing bestiality or animal crush material carries a maximum penalty of 3 years, as now outlined in section 547E of the Act.

Bestiality or animal crush material means material that depicts or describes bestiality, or an animal being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise killed or subjected to serious injury.

The material must be such that a reasonable person would regard in all the circumstances as being intended or apparently intended to excite or gratify a sexual interest or excite or gratify a sadistic or other perverted interest in violence or cruelty.

Produce is defined to include filming, photographing, printing or otherwise making the material, as well as altering or manipulating an image for the purpose of making such material and entering into an agreement or an arrangement to do so.

Disseminating is defined to include sending, supplying, exhibiting, transmitting, communicating, as well as making the material available for access by another person, and entering into an agreement or an arrangement to do so.

A defence will be available where the defendant did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the material the defendant produced, disseminated, or possessed was bestiality or animal crush material. A finding of 'not guilty' may also be entered where the conduct engaged in by the defendant was of public benefit and did not extend beyond what was of public benefit.

The defence may also seek to prove, if the offence involves possession, that the material came into the defendant's possession unsolicited and that they took reasonable steps to get rid of it, as soon as they became aware of its nature.

Other defences include:

  • Law enforcement officers acting in the course of their duties, where their conduct was reasonable in the circumstances for the purpose of performing the duty,
  • The conduct engaged in was necessary for or of assistance in conducting scientific, medical, or educational research approved, authorised, or otherwise permitted under a law of the State or of another State, a Territory, or the Commonwealth, or
  • The material concerned was classified, whether before or after the commission of the alleged offence, under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth), other than as refused classification (RC).

Bestiality, as well as producing, disseminating, or possessing bestiality or animal crush material are considered 'strictly indictable' offences. This means that they must be dealt with in the District Court.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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